Mazza: Betting sponsorships are still relevant no matter what the restrictions are

The start of the 2020/2021 European football season, will see a drastic altering in the relationship between football clubs and betting operators. 

Once recognised as the leading marketing channel for targeting betting audiences and amplifying brand exposure, in the era of ‘responsible gaming’, European operators have had to rethink their sponsorship strategies under heightened regulatory scrutiny.     

Speaking on the ‘Future of Sports Sponsorship’ panel at SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital, Carmelo Mazza, CEO, OIA Services, highlighted that while restrictions are becoming more strict, there is still value in creating sports sponsorships through the use of new techniques to create a brand identity.

Mazza stated: “So the experience I have is that no matter what the restrictions are, for example in the case of Italy which has tough restrictions, sponsorship keeps remaining very important.

“The point is that we need to create new ways and leverage on new digital technologies in order to avoid the bad and of course this increases the importance of selecting properly and having long term relationships.

“In a way, it is part of creating a brand identity that matches with the kind of investment that you do. Selecting very specifically what you want to have gives the opportunity to have high values of sponsorship.

“Of course this opens up the questions about the meaning of such restrictions. Of course, this is a different discussion, but at least I believe that sponsorship value is there also within countries with tough restrictions.”

Additionally, the panel discussed the importance of establishing the correct partnership with a club, with a growing emphasis being placed on brands that use the sponsorship to create a trusted fanbase. Dean Akinjobi, CEO, Football Media discussed that the road shouldn’t stop at signing a deal with a club. Further activations need to be implemented to integrate yourself with the team, creating a relationship with its fans.

“I think that one of the things we find is that even when you’re going into these markets, where you’ve got a global sponsorship, it comes down to how you activate it,” said Akinjobi.

“It’s really important to leverage those assets across multiple channels such as fan sites, because most fans don’t spend a huge amount of time on the official website, those fans go to the official website, stay there for a period of time, then recent news and then go to the unofficial channels. 

“Some YouTube channels that we work with are have more followers of fans like an actual official website.”

Neill Simpson, Brand Director, Mr Green agreed: “In my experience a lot of operators I’ve seen make the mistake of thinking that if an investment is ‘x’ million, then that’s the sponsorship done and dusted. Whereas actually, your level of investment outside of that is almost more important than the sponsorship money itself.

“We’ve done individual sponsorships, boxing events for example, you can maximise those to the hilt and push, whether it be new product launches that you’re doing, expansion in markets, new entry, whatever it might be, you can still make so much out of that by actually leveraging the property that you’ve invested in.”

Dan Towse, the head of brand at Marathonbet, on the other hand also emphasised that rights holders also need to cooperate with betting sponsors as well, especially if tougher restrictions come in, so that the value of the partnerships remain the same.

He said: “It is getting harder for the sector but at the same time, I think rights holders are going to have to adapt as well. I don’t think their reliance is fully on gaming companies or brands from other sectors regardless of what they’re promoting. The rights holders need to adapt and help us to be able to drive value from those sponsorships.

“If you looked at some of the data that was shared last year I think for shirt sponsorship in the Premier League, the gaming sector was paying double what other retail sectors could offer. Now if we do find ourselves in say 5/10 years, it might even be sooner, then those sponsorships can’t be so overt as what they are now. What are clubs going to be offering in replacement? Or what can we do differently to still drive that awareness of both our brand and our products?”

The panel, which was moderated by Martin Calvert, the marketing director ICS-digital – Spotlight Sports Group, concluded discussing other sponsorship avenues, such as athlete and influencer partnerships, that could be considered for operators. Nikita Lazarev, Senior Sponsorship Manager, Parimatch explained that the athlete sponsorship could prove to be a successful strategy for the gaming industry, if the correct person is chosen. 

Calvert said: “It really depends who you partner with and it’s very important that you not just partner with an athlete but some who can spark the industry.

“Conor McGregor is a great example in my personal opinion because he always get attention. If he goes on Twitter, he posts something it goes viral. He goes on Instagram and says something, it goes worldwide.

“If you have this opportunity to bring the athletes and do stuff with them, it is very important that you do so.”

SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital is a FREE to attend virtual conference and exhibition running from 8-11 September. To register for your free ticket or find out more please visit –

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